Amid the craze caused by the sale of Reaper peppers at one of the UK’s largest grocery retailers, people are suddenly looking for hotter chili peppers.
We get it.
After all, we make the world’s hottest hot sauces, and we can’t stop ourselves from making them hotter still.
But, it’s not always a matter of creating hotter chili peppers.
All Chili Peppers Come from a Mere Three Founders
It shouldn’t surprise you that Cayenne and Jalapeño peppers share ancestral roots. They’re not so fantastically different from each other. But, every single pepper on earth, including the Reaper, can trace its lineage back to three simple peppers.
In case you’re wondering, those three peppers include a wild species from Brazil, and two different Andean varieties: one with 24 chromosomes and one with 26 chromosomes.
That’s a little wacky when you think about it.
Naturally occurring crosses between peppers took us quite a long way through history to provide us with a plentitude of peppers. Each one developed its flavor and potency without any human intervention. (It is, however, entirely possible that some cultures favored hotter chili peppers and planted more of those.)
Peppers are now grafted and spliced like it’s no one’s business – and this is often done to create hotter chili peppers (and more flavorful varieties). Human intervention has become something of an imperative for the development of new species and plants.
Hotter Chili Peppers Doesn’t Have to Be the End Result
The study of cross-pollination and development suggests something interesting for the future. You see, it’s possible to look at the strengths and weaknesses of individual plants and their harvest. While botanists and chili growers have looked at creating hotter chili peppers, it’s possible to concede that there may be other reasons to look at chili pepper genetics.
No, not necessarily hotter chili peppers. We’re suggesting that there is hope for more resilient plants. Think for a moment about chilies that could withstand droughts. What about peppers that never need to cower in free of diseases (and what you need to do to save those harvests).
Yes, yes, it sounds like GMO foods, except it is not. Botanists are continuing to consider just how long nature crossed the chromosomes of just three plants – and new, naturally-occurring species crop up in remote corners of the globe all the time.
While the hottest peppers on the planet will always appeal to people (as the chaos caused by a grocery store carrying it clearly demonstrates), remember that heat isn’t the only reason to create new chili peppers. And, considering that we started with three peppers, just imagine how far we can go.